John Edward Cooper’s Notes

HomeContentsAlphabetical listingWhom I’d like to meet in eternity…

Jones and Manchester

Early Days
 1. I started seeing Jones, I guess, around spring 1962, and we started playing “The Game”, the game with space ships and Jones’s air force and so on;[more] then towards summer 1962 Chris, the boy who was always “just about to go” when I arrived at Jones’s house,[more] was admitted into The Game and made a farce of it.[more] Around autumn 1962, I guess, I went round to Chris’s house and made friends with him;[more] while at school I became friendly with Peter Gooding in Jones’s “Baconizer” game.[more] I was admitted into membership of Chris’s and Jones’s EMB&H Club, and shortly afterwards Jones came round with Chris to my house and dismissed me from it.[more] Perhaps by early 1963 I was friendly again with Chris,[1] and I also had a regular friendship with Peter Gooding; and after we started getting together one of the things that we amused ourselves with, was discussion about Jones: we would reel off as many episodes involving Jones that we could think of, imitating his voice and actions with much laughter. For example, Jones came from Manchester, and in some of our recollections about Jones that great metropolis figured.
[1] Compare Chris’s first visits to my house.
(“He’s destroyed Manchester!”)
Sources of the story: The Sealed Envelope and Chris’s Reply

 2. One afternoon, Jones met Chris with some enthusiasm, eager to take him to the far end of Mayfair Drive, where the building of bungalows was still incomplete. He told Chris that he had found a heap of sand, as yet undisturbed by the builders, and in this sand had with his own hands created a reconstruction in miniature of the great metropolis of Manchester — Jones’s home town and well-known first love. With great anticipation he bounced in front of Chris down Mayfair Drive in true kangaroo manner, towards the spot where he would show Chris his masterpiece. On arrival at the spot Jones, horrified, stopped in his steps to see that his arch-enemy, “Little Peter” — Peter Hargreaves, who lived in Mayfair Drive, and whom Jones regarded as an all-time pest — had wrecked his elaborate sand-castles, and re-formed the heap of sand into a system of speedway or racing track roads. Jones went white with anger, and without taking his eyes off the sand dramatically fell to his knees, took a handful of sand in each hand and as he let the sand trickle through his fingers, uttered the now-famous words:
“He’s destroyed—
(“The rain in Manchester is like a fine drizzle, much finer than rain anywhere else.”)
 3. Jones and I were in conversation one day at Fleetwood Grammar School. It may have been raining, I can’t remember. I was aware that Jones came from Manchester, and that he regarded the place with some kind of special affection. Jones assumed his quiet voice, such as he used for making profound statements.
 “You know, Coops,” he said. “The rain in Manchester is not like ordinary rain.”
 Well, I was aware that in tropical rain forests and monsoon countries the nature and amount of rainfall was different from that of Great Britain, but up till now I was under the impression that in Britain rain was pretty much the same everywhere. So I told Jones, “Well, it rains in Manchester the same as it does here.”
 “No,” answered Jones. “The rain in Manchester is different from rain everywhere else. It is like a” — and he paused here — “like a fine drizzle.”
 “Yes, but it drizzles here, Jonesy.”
 “Ah, but in Manchester it is different. It is much finer.”
 Well, I had considerable doubts about this statement, but I didn’t press the discussion any further.

(“Uh, oh! Manchester, Manchester!”)
 4. After Jones had moved to Thornton and we had become acquainted with him, the Jones family for quite a long time afterwards used to go to Manchester quite frequently at a weekend. His Mum always wanted to get back there to her relatives and friends and familiar surroundings.
 And Jones was always dragged along. Strange as it may seem, he was not over-keen on these visits to Manchester, his “well-known first love”, because, although he had a kind of obsession with the city, the fact was that being dragged there with his Mum at a weekend inevitably meant that he was dragged round the shops, round Lewis’s and the other big Manchester department stores, and he used to get a bit bored with that. Chris recalls a conversation with Jones in which he confirmed this. He would have had no problem with these visits, had he been allowed to “stonk” off on his own to visit old school friends etc. On one occasion, he had in fact intimated to his parents that this is what he would like to do. He then quoted his Mum’s swift response to this request: “Oh no you don’t,” she replied, “you’re coming into town with me, and that’s that!”

 5. So it was, then, that Chris was in the process of arranging to meet Jones the following Saturday. And Jones was quite agreeable to that, and the arrangement was made; and then all of a sudden Jones just looked — as if his mind had just gone “click!”
[1] — and he said, “Uh, oh! Manchester, Manchester!”, which meant that he had realised that he had got a prior engagement and had to go with his parents to Manchester that weekend.
[1] “My mind went ‘click!’” was a well-known-to-us saying of Jones’s.
(“Chris, when your Dad goes to Manchester, does he go over Belmont?” “NO! He goes through Chorley!”)
 6. Whenever Jones’s Dad (or “Dads” as Jones called him) went to Manchester he always went via Belmont. This was something of an obsession with Jones, according to whom it was “the fastest route to Manchester”. He made the ridiculous assertion that it only took his Dad about three-quarters of an hour to make the journey by this route. (At that time, to do it in less than an hour and a quarter would have meant breaking all the speed limits on the way. It was generally about an hour-and-a-half trip.)

 7. Chris was round at Jones’s house one morning, and they went into the lounge; and for some reason best known to himself Mr. Jones (or Dads) turned to Chris, and puffing on his pipe said, “Chris, (puff! puff!) when your Dad goes to Manchester (puff! puff! puff!) does he go over Belmont?”
 And Chris was just about to answer — he had half-opened his mouth
— when Jones, who was seated at the table, just chimed in, as if to shout Chris down: “NO! He goes through Chorley!” — as though this was some great shame.

(“There is a train that stops at — Preston, Bolton, Pendleton Broad, and Manchester Victoria. No, wait a minute! Preston — Pendleton Broad — Manchester Victoria. No, no! Pendleton Broad — Manchester Victoria.”)
8. Jones and Chris were talking about the train service between Blackpool North station and Manchester Victoria, and the fact that extra trains were provided in the morning and in the evening, primarily for businessmen who lived in Blackpool but who worked in Manchester (“business trains”, as people referred to them in those days) which made very few stops en route. (Relatively few people commuted in this way in the north-west of England, a journey of some fifty miles; typically the distance between one’s home and workplace would be more like five or at most ten miles.) And Jones maintained that there was even a train that stopped only at “Preston, Bolton, Pendleton Broad Street, and Manchester Victoria.” He said that many of these businessmen didn’t actually travel all the way into Manchester Victoria; they got out of the train at Pendleton — “Pendleton Broad Street” — as though this was some major commercial centre.[1]

 9. Now Chris was a bit of a fanatic when it came to trains: he purchased a copy of the large, thick volume of national timetables, for example, and used to pore over it for hours, working out possible ways of getting to all sorts of places. Especially, he was familiar with routes from his home in Thornton, near Blackpool, to his old home town Grimsby, which as likely as not would take him in his imagination through Manchester. What’s more, he had travelled numerous times from Blackpool to Manchester Victoria on trains which had stopped at Layton, Poulton-le-Fylde, Kirkham and Wesham, Preston, Chorley, Adlington, Lostock Junction, Bolton, Salford, and Manchester Victoria — but not Pendleton Broad Street. Some trains might miss some of the stations, or even stop at others — Leyland, between Preston and Chorley; or Blackrod, between Adlington and Lostock Junction, for example — but he had never been on one that had stopped at Pendleton Broad Street; nor had he in his frequent perusals of the railway timetable seen any from Blackpool that did so. 
 He frowned, thinking to himself, “I’m sure there’s no train that stops at Pendleton Broad Street.” 
 “Oh no, no, no, Chris,” insisted Jones: “there is a train that stops at — Preston, Bolton, Pendleton Broad, and Manchester Victoria.”
 Chris hummed doubtfully, but before he could frame an actual reply, Jones began to “correct” himself. “No, wait a minute!” he said. “No, wait a minute! No, no! I think it just stops at Preston — Pendleton Broad — Manchester Victoria.” And after a momentary pause: “No, I think I’m actually wrong: I think there is a train that just stops at — Pendleton Broad — Manchester Victoria.”
 Chris didn’t challenge Jones openly, but couldn’t conceal the signs of his disbelief.
[1] Why Jones would come up with “Pendleton Broad Street” as a conversation piece is a mystery. Indeed, Pendleton, a suburb of the city of Salford just west of Manchester, was served by two stations, “Pendleton Bridge” and “Pendleton Broad Street”; but the station on the route via Bolton from Blackpool was in fact “Pendleton Bridge” — not “Pendleton Broad Street”, which served the line from Liverpool via Wigan. Although there was a link between the line from Bolton to the one from Wigan, and trains could be diverted along it, the question remains: Would a limited-stop business train be so diverted? Even if such a train were to stop in Pendleton, “Pendleton Bridge” station was still open; it wasn’t closed till 5 December 1966.

1950s map showing the approach to Manchester Victoria, and in particular Pendleton Bridge and Broad Street stations. The possible diversion from the direct Bolton to Manchester Victoria route, for the putative stop at Pendleton Broad Street, is shown in dark blue.

[2] It was a source of great surprise and amusement for me, when I was returning home to Grimsby on 6 March 1977 from visiting Thornton, that the train did in fact stop at Pendleton Broad Street station, renamed “Pendleton” following the closure of Pendleton Bridge station.

Comments: Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]